Harper College Distinguished Alumnus Larry Moats has never forgotten a five minute conversation he had with his English professor 50 years ago that he says changed his life and inspired a lifetime of learning.
Larry didn’t like high school but knew that if he wanted to move ahead in life, he would have to “get through college.” After enrolling at Harper, one of his first classes was English with Professor Robert Powell.
On his first paper, Larry received a C. He approached Professor Powell to discuss his grade. Larry remembers their conversation – the questions that Professor Powell asked him during the short five-minutes they shared. Professor Powell offered Larry the opportunity to rewrite the paper for a new grade. Larry received an A, a newfound appreciation for learning, for Harper College and for the professor who gave him a second chance.
Larry attributes this five-minute conversation with Professor Powell as a turning point in his life. It showed him that it doesn’t take a lot – just a small amount of time – to have a big impact on a student’s life.
After graduating from Harper, Larry ran for, and won, a seat on Harper College’s Board of Trustees. In 1969, at the age of 21, Larry became the youngest elected official in the state, and served 15 years on the College’s Board of Trustees. “I am passionate about the contribution that Harper made in my life. I had great experiences in and out of the classroom - they couldn’t have been any better,” he reflects.
During the next three decades, Larry stayed involved with Harper and continued to stay connected with Professor Powell.
Two years ago, Larry created the Professor Powell and Larry Moats Extra Five Minutes Faculty Award in memory of Professor Powell, who passed away in 2011. This unique endowed award recognizes a Harper College faculty member each year who has inspired students, given them extra time and made a difference in their lives. Nominees for the award are identified by Harper graduates who are asked to reflect on their experiences at Harper College and identify a teacher who has exemplified the award criteria.
Larry is pleased that he is able to honor his mentor, Professor Powell, and recognize faculty with this award. “Look at the difference that faculty make in peoples’ lives,” Moats says. “This award is one way for students to be able to thank someone who has helped them and made a difference.”